Utah Women’s Basketball Team Had to Move Hotels Over Safety Concerns

Gonzaga v Utah
Photo: Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The University of Utah’s women’s basketball team was forced to move hotels in the midst of the NCAA tournament after multiple racist incidents left players feeling unsafe, reports. At a press conference Monday after the team’s game against Gonzaga, Utah coach Lynne Roberts shared that they’d had “several instances of some kind of racial hate crimes towards our program” while staying in Idaho.

Sent to Spokane, Washington, for the first two rounds of the tournament, the players were staying at a hotel in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, about 35 minutes away from Spokane’s McCarthey Athletic Center. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the team went out for a celebratory dinner at a gastropub called Crafted last Thursday. The team’s athletic director, Charmelle Green, told KSL that they were approaching the restaurant when someone in a white truck drove up close to the team and revved their engine before shouting the N-word. “We all just were in shock, and we looked at each other like, did we just hear that?” she said. “Students that were in that area that heard it clearly were just frozen.”

After dinner, the team reportedly experienced more of the same. KSL reports that according a police report, as students were leaving the restaurant, two lifted pickup trucks started “revving their engines and speeding by the team,” their occupants again shouting the N-word. “I got emotional and started to cry,” Green said.

Sharing that the team had moved hotels following the harassment, Utah coach Roberts called the whole incident “incredibly upsetting for all of us.” She added: “For our players and staff to not feel safe in an NCAA tournament environment, it’s messed up.”

In response to the situation, Gonzaga Athletics released a statement that read in part, “Hate speech in any form is repugnant, shameful and must never be tolerated. We worked hard to secure the opportunity to serve as the host institution, and our first priority is and must be the safety and welfare of all student-athletes, coaches, families and supporting staff.” According to ESPN, Idaho Governor Brad Little also issued a statement, writing “There is no place for racism, hate, or bigotry in the great State of Idaho. We condemn bullies who seek to harass and silence others.”

Although the NCAA and Gonzaga worked with the team to move them to a hotel in Spokane, Utah athletic director Mark Harlan told KSL the team should’ve never been placed so far from where they were playing in the first place. “I will never forget the sound that I heard, the intimidation of the noise that came from that engine, and the [N-word],” Green said. “I go to bed and I hear it every night since I’ve been here … I couldn’t imagine us having to stay there and relive those moments.”

Utah Basketball Team Moved Hotels Over Safety Concerns